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13 Science-Backed Benefits of Theobromine + Side Effects

Written by Helen Quach, BS (Biochemistry) | Last updated:
Medically reviewed by
Jonathan Ritter, PharmD, PhD (Pharmacology) | Written by Helen Quach, BS (Biochemistry) | Last updated:

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Although everyone loves the little kick that caffeine can give in a chocolate snack, they are less aware of the healthy effects theobromine has on the body. Like caffeine, theobromine is found in the cacao plant and can keep your blood pressure down and your mind active. Read on to discover more about the benefits of the naturally occurring stimulant, theobromine.

What is Theobromine?

Theobromine is a naturally occurring compound found in cacao plants and tea leaves.

Named after the scientific name of cacao trees, Theobroma Cacao, scientists found it had similar stimulation and heart effects to caffeine.

It originated in the tropical rainforests of the Americas in times of the Mayan and Aztec civilizations and was considered a “food of the gods,” “theo” meaning god and “broma” meaning food [1, 2].

Theobromine is associated with increases in energy and urine production. It also decreases the likelihood of high blood pressure and asthmatic episodes [3].

How Does Theobromine Work?

Theobromine primarily functions to improve your circulatory, respiratory, and excretory systems [4].

It blocks phosphodiesterase enzymes and increases the activity of a messenger called cAMP. This messenger activates an enzyme called PKA, which reduces inflammation and causes widening of blood vessels and increases stimulation [5].

Theobromine also blocks adenosine receptors. These usually trigger hormones such as norepinephrine, that can increase blood pressure, but theobromine acts to block this. It increases the speed the brain responds to signals, such as increased heart rate.

Benefits of Theobromine

1) Lowers Blood Pressure

Theobromine causes blood pressure to decrease quickly due to the widening of blood vessels [6].

In a study of 84 healthy patients, theobromine significantly lowered blood pressure at doses between 250 and 1,000 mg [7].

Another study of 24 participants showed that theobromine can help high blood pressure. Within 1 hour of consumption, 700 mg of theobromine successfully lowered the participant’s blood pressure [8].

Additionally, in another study of 42 healthy individuals, cocoa enriched with nearly 1,000 mg of theobromine caused a clear decrease in blood pressure over a 3-week period [9].

2) Acts As Heart Stimulant

In two studies of 42 and 80 healthy participants respectively, doses between 300 and 1,000 mg of theobromine increased heart rate in a dose-dependent manner. In 5 hours, the heart rate increased by about 6 – 7 beats per minute. This helped the subjects become more stimulated and active [7, 9].

After theobromine consumption, 24 participants had increased interest in study activities due to increased cardiovascular stimulation [8].

3) May Help Brain Function

In a 30-patient study, cocoa-based drinks with varying amounts of theobromine and other chocolate components called flavanols were consumed. As these flavanols took effect, participants had improved performance on mental tasks and reduced mental fatigue [10].

4) Helps Remove Toxins

Through widening of blood vessels, theobromine helps the body increase blood flow. This reduces the excess fluid that can collect in blood vessels, and removing it from the body as urine, allowing blood to filter out and remove toxins [11].

When high blood pressure causes fluid accumulation in the body, theobromine works to decrease the fluid through increased urination [12].

5) Increases Airflow in Lungs

Theobromine opens up pathways for air to enter the lungs, which can lessen coughing and asthmatic episodes [6].

By opening up the bronchioles, where oxygen exchange takes place, breathing becomes easier. In a study of 21 young adults with asthma, theobromine capsules increased bronchial diameter, which increases airflow to the lungs [13].

In guinea pigs, theobromine treated coughing, due to inflammation of the lungs. A dose of 32 mg/kg theobromine was supplied to guinea pigs with a cough. The amount of coughing was significantly reduced for 4 hours. Results are promising due to its natural ability to be a cough remedy [14].

6) Prevents Tooth Decay

Theobromine can naturally promote healthy enamel in teeth [15].

Human molars (teeth) were more protected when treated with theobromine solution. It has even been considered as an alternative to fluoride as a toothpaste ingredient [15, 16].

7) Is Anti-Inflammatory

Demonstrated by its effects on gout and asthma, theobromine is a natural anti-inflammatory [6].

It reduces the levels of inflammatory cytokines such as IFN-y and TNF-a [17, 18].

In a study of 21 asthma patients, theobromine minimized airway inflammation in the lungs. This increases the patients’ ability to breathe [13].

8) Improves Cholesterol Levels

Theobromine raises HDL (good) cholesterol, as well as reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol. By decreasing levels of LDL, the risk of coronary heart disease is also reduced [19].

In a study of 152 healthy participants, theobromine is the main ingredient in cocoa that causes a decrease in LDL cholesterol [19].

9) May Help with Weight Loss

Theobromine suppresses appetite, which can lead to weight loss. Through chemical analysis of weight loss products, its components compared with others showed it is a natural substance that reduces hunger [20].

Since it is a stimulant, it also provides energy for physical activity as well as shed water weight. Theobromine-rich cocoa powder induced significant weight loss in rats by breaking down fat in the body [21].

10) May Reduce the Risk of Cancer

Theobromine has properties that reduce the development of tumors through the inhibition of an enzyme that can lead to cancer growth [6].

A study of human cells suggests that common brain cancers can be avoided due to theobromine’s inhibition of pathways (Ras-p44/42 ERK and Akt) that promotes tumor formation. Theobromine also reduces rapid cell regeneration, which is effective in preventing tumor growth [22].

11) Can Help You Sleep

In a survey of 5,587 people, 30 mg theobromine supplements contributed to staying asleep for a long period. Compared to other foods with caffeine, cocoa can result in a more restful sleep due to the theobromine component [23, 24].

12) May Help Reduce Gout Symptoms

For individuals with gout, a form of arthritis, theobromine can prevent the inflammation of joints by increasing blood circulation. It also prevents uric acid buildup, which contributes to gout [25, 26].

Moderate consumption of foods with theobromine is the key to reduce gout symptoms [25, 26].

13) May Prevent Kidney Stones

Theobromine extracted from cacao inhibits the buildup of uric acid, a type of kidney stone. Since theobromine is a diuretic, it can also reduce the risk of kidney stones by increasing urine flow [27].

Side Effects

Human consumption of theobromine is not toxic unless consumed in extreme amounts. There is no lethal dosage for humans, but a constant daily intake of up to 1,500 mg is associated with the following symptoms [28, 29, 30, 31].

Drug and Supplement Interactions

Theobromine interacts with caffeine increasing heart rate, alertness, and widening of blood vessels more than either substance would if taken individually [32].

Theobromine works with another component of cocoa, epicatechin, which improves muscular health and promotes strength and faster muscle recovery. In rats, theobromine increased the absorption of epicatechin into the body, resulting in increased muscle strength and recovery [33, 34].

Natural Sources, Supplements & Dosage

Theobromine is mainly found in cacao beans [4].

  • A 70% dark chocolate bar can have as much as 810 mg of theobromine, while a milk chocolate bar has 65 mg [30].
  • A single block of unsweetened chocolate has 375 mg of theobromine [35].

Theobromine is also found in tea leaves, guarana berries, and cola nuts, all of which also contain caffeine [4].


Pure theobromine is a fine bitter powder, which is taken on its own or used in foods and drinks. Some also use the powder on top of their toothpaste when they brush their teeth for its fluoride-like effects [19, 24].

Theobromine can also be found in capsules, ranging from 350 to 500 mg [24].


A standard dosage of theobromine ranges from 50 to ~1,000 mg, depending on the product. Dosages of 500 mg have the greatest benefits with little to no negative side effects [31].

User Experiences

For many people theobromine successfully lowers blood pressure. They also noticed less negative side effects when they take theobromine by itself instead of in a product that also has caffeine.

It is often preferred over caffeine due to the similar but significantly milder effects. The effects of theobromine also last longer. Those who take cocoa as a supplement experience the mental benefits of combining the two substances, such as better focus, concentration, and mood.

Users also notice improved physical health when combining theobromine with caffeine because of the long-lasting energy the substances provide during exercise.

Some users experience a fast-paced heart rate and get slight trembling feelings or nausea with pure theobromine powder.

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About the Author

Helen Quach

BS (Biochemistry)

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